LEWISTON — Their defensive struggles continued Sunday, but thanks to some friends in Quebec City, the Lewiston Maineiacs will have at least four more games to try and figure out how to fix them.
Despite getting hammered, 7-0, by Drummondville in their final game of the regular season, an 8-0 Quebec Remparts’ win over Baie-Comeau at the same time assured that, for the second consecutive season, the Maineiacs have earned the final playoff spot in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“It’s nice that we made the playoffs, but it’s not good that we had to do it by the back door,” Lewiston coach J.F. Houle said.
The Maineiacs end the regular season with a record of 23-42-0-3, for 49 points. The Drakkar also finished with 49 points, but have two fewer wins, giving Lewiston the tie-breaking edge.
Lewiston began it’s season-ending stretch of three games in six days with a chance to earn the final playoff position outright. All the Maineiacs needed to do was win one of their final three games to officially eliminate the Drakkar. But with all three games against two of the top four teams in the league, the team’s chances to do so were slim from the beginning.
“We go into every game thinking we have a chance to win,” Houle said. “But we have to show up to play every game. We played two very good teams, but you have to play hard, no matter who’s on the other side.”
More upsetting to Houle than the losses themselves was the manner in which the team suffered defeat. In its last three games, Lewiston has allowed 19 goals while scoring just six. And they’ve been shut out twice in a row to finish out the season.
“We’re not winning one-on-one battles, we’re not winning the battles down low,” Houle said. “You have to get in there, be physical, pick up sticks and move people out of the way.”
There was very little of that on Sunday.
Drummondville shot out to a 4-0 lead in the opening period and a 12-3 advantage in shots. But despite the terrible save percentage, Houle said starting goalie Adrien Lemay was the least of the team’s problems.
“Three of them, at least, came with the puck just sitting there in front of the net, and no one moved it, no one cleared it,” Houle said. “Adrien played a good game, but he needed help.”
Philippe Lefebvre scored two of those four first-period goals on his way to a hat trick and a four-point night. Andrew Randazzo finished with three assists as well for the Voltigeurs, who are the league’s No. 2 overall seed behind Saint John, one year after winning the President’s Trophy as the league’s top playoff team.
In the second, Lewiston held the Volts to just one more goal, a Marc-Olivier Vachon tally late in the frame.
Lefebvre capped his hat trick and Ondrej Palat added his 17th of the season in the third, while Jake Allen earned the shutout in net.
Lewiston’s reward for making it into the playoffs? A date in a best-of-seven playoff series with these same Drummondville Voltigeurs. Last year, in the playoffs, Lewiston also matched up with Drummondville, a series that lasted four games. In the last two seasons, including playoffs, Lewiston has a 2-17-1 record against Drummondville, having been outscored 135-48.